3 Times Patience (Literally) Paid Off in Planned Giving

Stelter Client Strategist Jana Cobb joins the blog today, teaching us that patience is a virtue—in life—and planned giving.

Every day I have the privilege to talk to some amazing gift planning professionals. They teach me so much. One thing I hear time and again is the important role patience plays in a successful planned giving program. Whether you’ve been in the gift planning seat for years or you’re one of the many newcomers just getting started, it’s important to step back and recognize not only the uniqueness and magnitude of what you’re asking of donors, but also the time these types of gifts require.

I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting it’s challenging to have patience in today’s fast-paced, immediate-gratification world. Unlike direct response fundraising, where you can elicit a quick reaction and decision, planned giving decisions are largely driven by the donor’s timetable. And their timetable is out of our control. However, the payoff is almost always worth the wait, as planned gifts can have a transformational and lasting impact on your organization.

 As my colleague Lynn Gaumer likes to say, “Planned giving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” To win the race you need to build relationships with your donors over time and stay engaged with them throughout the decision-making process. Providing donors with the information they need to assist them in making informed decisions that meet their personal philanthropic goals is essential.

Recognize that your donors are on a journey and that it can be a lengthy process. Honor where they are at in the journey and help guide them along as a trusted partner.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race For These 3 Nonprofits

Joe Jayne, Executive Director of Gift Planning at the UMass Amherst Foundation, shared a recent story with me. A donor reached out to him after receiving a direct mail package, interested in a charitable gift annuity. While working on closing the CGA with her, she told him she had received several mailings on the topic over the years, but “now was the right time” for her.

  • Although Joe completely understands this sentiment, he said it served as a good reminder, reinforcing the need for consistent messaging and outreach. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear from your supporters on the first, second or third try. In other words, stay the course.

Deanna Gast, Senior Director, Office of Gift Planning at Michigan State University, had a donor respond to a recent mailing, expressing her excitement about making a gift. Although Deanna had been mailing to her for some time, the donor didn’t recall any previous communications.

  • This calls to mind “the rule of 7”— the idea that people must see or hear a message seven times before it sinks in. Regardless of whether the donor remembers receiving the previous mailings, this mailing stuck with her, and it was the right time for her to take action. You can bet Deanna was ready to help her. 

Many of our clients uncover a healthy number of leads through donor surveys. Through careful lead management and cultivation, Eva Mikes, Program Manager at The University of Texas at Austin, is finding success closing gifts from survey leads an average of 16-18 months post-survey.

  • It may be tempting to give up after a couple of follow-ups, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the respondent cared enough about your organization to take the survey and provide personal feedback. 

These real stories of patience, perseverance and thoughtful donor cultivation build upon countless others I’ve heard through my 16 years at Stelter. You likely have your own similar stories too. 

Ultimately, being a successful planned giving professional requires patience, persistence, and a deep understanding of the unique nature of legacy gifts. Stay the course, keep focus and the reward will come!

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